Title: The Paris Lawyer
Author: Sylvie Granotier
Translator: Anne Trager
Publisher: Le French Book
Source: France Book Tours via NetGalley
Genre: Legal Procedural / Psychological Thriller
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About the Book:
As a child, she was the only witness to a heinous crime. Now, Catherine Monsigny is an ambitious rookie attorney in Paris, working for a well-known firm. On the side, she does pro bono work and hits the jackpot: a major felony case that could boost her career. A black woman is accused of poisoning her rich farmer husband in a peaceful village in central France, where nothing ever happens. While preparing the case, Catherine’s own past comes back with a vengeance. This fast-paced story follows Catherine’s determined search for the truth in both her case and her own life. Who can she believe? And can you ever escape from your past? The story twists and turns, combining subtle psychological insight with detailed descriptions of the region.
This was an incredibly compelling story that maintains that peculiar sensibility that is utterly French yet eludes description. While most of the more procedurally focused stories I have read flow between police and criminal, Granotier mixes it up and gives us young lawyer Catherine Monsigny enmeshed in two different storylines of past and present.
Lush descriptions place readers in the city of Paris or in the small village in the hills of central France. It is easy to relate to the small town feel: curious neighbors, unlocked doors and a bit of suspicion about anyone different, Parisian or immigrant.
Catherine is brought forward to defend Miriam Villetrieux for the poisoning death of her husband Gaston. As an African immigrant, orphaned at a young age and brought to Paris for a position with rather dubious employers, her life has been a difficult one until she married the well-off and older Gaston. Where I expected to see far more covert and even overt racism displayed toward Miriam, I was surprised to see evidence of Catherine’s difficulty in overcoming her own racial bias and tendency to jump to conclusions.
Catherine often seemed more immature than her position and education would warrant, her rush to conclusion without fully investigating people or situations was troubling, especially as she seems to lack that essential quality of ‘people sense’, and is a horrible judge of character. I think there are two huge issues for her: the strained relationship with her father over his refusal to discuss her mother or her mother’s death, and her education and lawyer speaks tend to become her separation and protection from situations that are emotionally difficult. I saw her as lacking in self-confidence which she covers over with a more stilted and often overly complex speech that bleeds into her personal narrative because it is safe and comfortable. I felt for her, even if I didn’t particularly empathize with her.
Other characters were as well-crafted and complex, with varying degrees of success and import to the plot. While the book did require very careful reading as the present and past often collide with little notice. But, as the more menacing undertones start to reveal themselves the pacing changes and the distinction between past and present is more apparent and easier to follow. Bringing all of the threads to one final conclusion, Granotier has pulled layers from the characters to expose their secrets and flaws up to the last pages, and created a story that was well worth the time to read.
I received an eBook copy from the publisher for purpose of honest review for France Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:
Author, screenwriter and actress Sylvie Granotier loves to weave plots that send shivers up your spine. She was born in Algeria and grew up in Paris and Morocco. She studied literature and theater in Paris, then set off traveling —the United States, Brazil, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, ending with a tour of Europe. She wound up in Paris again, an actress, with a job and some recognition. But she is a writer at heart, and started her publishing career translating Grace Paley’s short story collection Enormous Changes at the Last Minute into French. Fourteen novels and many short stories later, Sylvie Granotier is a major crime fiction author in France. She has met with continued success, and is translated into German, Italian, Russian and Greek. The Paris Lawyer is her first novel to be translated into English. This legal procedural that doubles as a psychological thriller is full of plot twists that bring us into the heart of French countryside, La Creuse, a place full of nineteenth-century landscapes and dark secrets. Sylvie splits her time between Paris and the Creuse.